Tyndall volunteers help NORAD track Santa

TYNDALL AFB, Fl. (WJHG/WECP) - While Santa Claus is hard at work spreading holiday cheer, a festive group at Tyndall Air Force Base is tracking him and his reindeer.

Col. Jeff Ward with the 601st Air Operations Center says their team tracks Santa in various ways.

"One is with radar, another is with satellites," Col. Ward said. "They have Santa cams where we keep track of him, and finally we have fighter jets. We have the jets scramble, but because he travels so fast, the jets have to slow down. He waves, and then he gives us a basically a goodbye and a ho ho ho."

Tracking Santa has been a NORAD tradition for over 60 years. the 601st gets a little assistance from the red-nosed reindeer.

"Inside of his nose Rudolph has a transponder," Col. Ward said. "He has a bright red bulb, but he also has a transponder. Every airplane has transponders and Rudolph had one installed as well, so we can track him day and night; good weather or bad weather, we can keep up with him."

They also post minute by minute updates online, and golly does jolly old Saint Nick move fast, delivering to an estimated 390,000 homes per minute. That's over 6,000 homes per second. So how does he do it? We asked several youngsters at Girls Inc. in Bay County.

Many of them attributed his high speed delivery powers to magic. But Tyndall Air Force Base officials say there's one crucial thing the children can't forget.

"Our intelligence indicates that Santa will not come if they are awake," Maj. Megan Tonner Robinson said. "We think that he arrives at houses between 9 p.m. and midnight, so kids need to go to bed when their parents tell them to go to bed. If they are awake, Santa will not stop. However, he will come back once they go to sleep. So that's the single most important thing they have to do. They have to go to bed."

Children can go to NORADSanta.org to track Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.